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Disney Studios reaching out


'The last thing you want to do is win the Oscar'
Walter Murch Film-maker
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The years after Apocalypse Now, I did a variety of things. I wrote a screenplay based in Egypt, about some archaeologists, that never got produced. It was originally intended for Zoetrope Studios and then they sold it to the Ladd Company. And the Ladd Company sold it to Warner Bros. So technically that screenplay is somewhere in the basement of Warner Bros. And on a legal, contractual basis, since I was paid to write it, if I wanted that screenplay back, I'd have to pay my salary to bring it back and I just, I don't think that's going to happen at the moment.

It was many, many years ago and I took a number of odd jobs to stay afloat. Curiously, I didn't get any offers to supervise the sound on any films after Apocalypse Now, even though I won an Oscar for it. There's something called the Oscar Curse, which says the last thing you want to actually do is win the Oscar because then people avoid you and don't want to deal with you for a whole variety of reasons. They think, 'Well, maybe he's too expensive now', which is not the case, or 'maybe he'll have too inflated a head', which I'll leave to other people to decide. 'I won't be able to say anything because he will then beat me over the head with his Oscar.'

These are things that maybe people are afraid of without even articulating it. But it... I can testify that it is definitely a factor, this sort of Oscar Curse. It's much better actually to be nominated and not to win because then you're perceived as having been disappointed and therefore people approach you to kind of say, 'You did a really good job' and you get more work. But the actual winning of the Oscar has this other element to it that is sometimes curious, its results.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Apocalypse Now

Duration: 2 minutes, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017